The Right Medium for the Message

Having used Twitter for a few weeks now I’ve come to the realization that it’s a viable communications means. It’s just that I’d never realized the appropriate messages to fit in that medium, which are short comments or conversations. I think of it as yelling over the cubicle wall at the folks around me. It’s good for a short blast, but any substantial conversation needs to move to a more appropriate communication means, be that a blog, an email, IM, the phone, or even the dreaded meat space.

There’s one usage I’m still coming to grips with and I think it’s a good one, the use of hashtags. This allows you to Tweet using a #myhashtag and then that tag is picked up and aggregated by Hashtags.org where you can go and see a stream of any tweets with that hashtag in them. This has a tremendous potential impact on niche communities. Think of a community of saltwater fly fishermen, who can use their phones to send a short tweet from the water, noting that the fish didn’t come in on the tide, or that their hitting on a particular fly. Or how about “the bluefish are blitzing at Sagamore Beach”? Tremendously useful…

Hashtags are a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They’re like tags on Flickr, only added inline to your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol: #hashtag.

Other mashups with Twitter I question. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of posts from BrightKite noting the exact address someone is at. I absolutely don’t want to be reporting my whereabouts via my cell phone, I have enough people trying to track me as it is. However, on the face of it, think of that group of saltwater fly fishermen again. They’d probably want to know where their friends are and be able to catch up. Well, at least you’d think that, but the my experience tells me the exact opposite, they’re more territorial than wolverines, and absolutely would take the locations of their favorite spots with them to the grave rather than devulge them to anyone.

Think about how hash tags could be used at a major event, like, say the Kentucky Derby, which is a multiday affair.  You could use has tags to aggregate what everyone is saying, and also to direct them to the events you want, such as your brand sponsored cocktail party.  “Meet at the ShillCo Pavilion for mojitos…”  If I were planning a major marketing event, I’d definitely be thinking how to incorporate this, provided I could be assured they’re be enough Twitter users around (and of course I’d tie it in with a blog, email, etc.).

That said, there are communities that BrightKite would fit nicely into.  Think of Crafters at a Craft Fair, or perhaps members of the same car club at a Car Meet.  You know you’re buddies arrived, and you can meet up.

I think that Twitter is hurting the blogs though. Now it seems to me that rather than linking on a blog, people are sending out a tweet about a good post. The truth is that blog links have legs, and tweets have very limited range, only to your followers, and there, only to the followers who are actually looking at the screen at that time. Twitter is kind of like a stock ticker, the information fades fast. I really only see trackbacks from sploggers now.

The diaspora that’s hit online media, with so many disparate tools, has got to stop.  Segmentation and tribalism won’t work for us.  We’ve got to move towards aggregating, not compartmentalizing.